The Secret to Staying Married

I’m a terrible joke teller, but there’s one I think is pretty funny that goes something like this:

I’ve been married for 25 years. It’s been the happiest 6 months of my life.

Like most good jokes, there’s a little bit of truth to that statement. Much of marriage isn’t simply about being happy,  just like after the age of, oh, about 11, much of life isn’t simply about being happy either. Most of us, if we’re not either incredibly wealthy or incredibly irresponsible, spend much of our lives in the most ordinary of pursuits, the most pedestrian of activities – and while we may have moments, hours, even entire days when we’re giddy with happiness, for most of us, being happy all the time just isn’t possible.

There are too many other things we have to do.

So What About a Happy Marriage? Is it Possible?

The same goes for marriage. Being happily married is not the same thing as being happy all the time. Being happily married is understanding that marriage is a contract and a commitment. Being happily married is putting the success of the marriage above either person’s individual needs or desires. The marriage has to be bigger than either person. The marriage has to take priority over anything else in your lives – at least most of the time.

I did not know this when my husband proposed to me one Friday night, drunk and naked, having bought me a ring that afternoon (he’s such a romantic).

I did not know this when we were married, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at a yacht club where we were not members (we have never owned a boat, much less a yacht).

I did not know this when, 3 weeks after our honeymoon, I discovered that I was pregnant and my husband could barely speak to me for 3 days (like it was all my doing).

I did not know this for a long time.

We were so caught up in the whirlwind of our lives – wedding…baby…house…another baby….that the reality of us being a couple was almost an afterthought. We went from newlyweds to new parents in 8 months. We went from two of us to four of us in  3 years. We never had those years “before kids” like most couples do – in fact, between his demanding job and pursuing his MBA at night, I didn’t really spend much time with my husband the 2 years we were together before our wedding.

Maybe that’s why he fell in love with me. Maybe a little of me goes a long way.

Becoming a family so quickly did not get in the way of our growth as a couple, it just took it in a different direction – one we both loved. We loved being parents (we still do).

But here’s the thing – we really didn’t know each other very well. For as much intimacy as we shared, as much love as we felt for each other, for our kids, we were just starting to get to know each other about 5 years in. Maybe that’s true for lots of couples – I don’t know. I remember suddenly realizing how different we were, how differently we were raised, how much I didn’t know about him. It was kind of shocking. And I’m sure I was a bit of a surprise to him, too.

How We’ve Stayed Married all These Years

When we were dating, we went to see the film On Golden Pond. This scene has always been one of my favorite scenes from any movie. I remember looking over at my husband (then my boyfriend) and thinking, “Yes. I can see feeling like this with you.”

There have been days…even months…when it’s been rough. There were moments we weren’t so sure we’d made the right choice – and sometimes we felt this way at different times. Not a lot of moments, but we’ve had our share.

The most challenging things we’ve been through together –  the deaths of our fathers, the stomach-clenching thrill ride of owning a business, raising two wildly different children, our personal ups and downs – those are the things that have brought us closer together, have taken us from being 2 people to being one couple. The wonderful moments – the days our children were born, the family gatherings, the vacations, the football games and choir shows, the amazing friends…those things have given color and shape and background to our lives. But the most difficult days, the ones that exhausted us and kept us up at night, that scared us or made us desperately sad – those are the days that made so many years possible.

Those are the days that, oddly enough, I appreciate most of all, because those are the days when I learned the real secret to being married:

You have to be there for each other, no matter what. No.Matter.What. There’s no choice. The moment you hesitate or turn your back, you’re doomed.

That’s what makes me happy. Knowing that he’s there for me, all the time. Knowing I can always count on him to come through, to be my “Norman,” my knight in shining armor. Knowing his hand is there to hold in the middle of the night. And knowing I can – and will – do the same for him.

Please follow and like us:


45 Comments

  • Happy anniversary, Sharon! I love your perspective on life. I’m looking forward to another terrific post on this topic in 25 more years! Photos of lots of grandkids too! Amen!

  • OlySuperMom

    Congrats! We just celebrated our 27th so I’m right there with you. This year my husband gave me a card that said ” Hey! We’re still married!?!” & we laughed. Our oldest just left for his first year of college & we’re starting to look ahead a few short years from now when it will just be “us” again. Exciting, sad, scary,& full of promise.

  • I know exactly what you mean, Sharon, and I celebrate the love that you and Peter are sharing today. Happy, Happy, HAPPY Anniversary!

    I didn’t have to watch that clip cause I know it by heart. Many of the lines have been written by writers! I apply TV/movie lines to my life (they’re better than what I could dream up.) I’ve told my husband I run to him because I couldn’t find/see/feel something and I needed to see his handsome face.

    That scene always makes me cry!!! Love Henry Fonda.

    Here’s to 25+ more happy and healthy years together.

  • Sharon first of all Happy Anniversary- Love the photos–I celebrated the big 20 year this year myself and to the same person I might add-lol. Your post was wonderful and I could totally relate- my hubby also proposed drunk and naked- must be a West Coast thing- he’s from Oregon. Here’s to another 25- Congrats!

  • Many congratulations Sharon – hope you celebrate(d) in true style?

    Great clip. Love the rocking chairs!

    And thanks for the timely reminders re. what makes a marriage work as we’re currently having a ‘moment’…

  • Happy Anniversary Sharon! What a lovely tribute to your marriage and commitment to each other.

    I have to admit as a childfree couple my experience after 37 years of marriage is somewhat different. We knew going in that there were be no children and that is both a benefit and a challenge. While we were able to spend lots of time getting to know each other and growing together it could have just as easily gone the other way. With or without children, every couple faces obstacles but ultimately the quality of our relationship is defined by the choices we make over the long haul. Respecting each other, liking who the other person is and “being there for each other” is critical. And another thing I have noticed is that the longer it goes the more DEEPLY in love you will become. ~Kathy

  • Lisa Mais

    Happy Anniversary! I agree with with you marriage is commitment, but so much fun as well:) Congrats to you and Peter

  • Reeves Witte-Honey

    A very Happy 25th Anniversary to you!
    I was an older bride when we married almost 30 years ago
    so getting pregnant within 6 months of married life
    was a kind of unspoken agreement with us. Still,having
    three kids in five years was not easy. I often said that one day I woke up in a strange town,with a strange
    man and three strange kids!
    Both of us come from long married parents with one parent being very difficult so I think we had a good
    example of commitment and perseverance.
    Over the last 7 years I would say we have had lots of
    ups and downs; the slow decline and subsequent deaths of our parents,unloading houses which we are
    still in the process of doing the and “in and out like a fiddler’s elbow” of the kids from our domicile!
    This is an area that readers should be prepared for.
    After college,just when you are thinking they are launched they come back. Only to move out again and your heart,mind and marriage is re-adjusting once again!
    I liked what you said about being happy and how most
    days are spent just getting by doing your thing. I do
    think this is a hard lesson for some of our millennial
    kids. I remember being at a soccer game for my son’s team
    and a child was reacting badly to a coach call. His mom
    said “everyday can’t be a birthday party,Drew”!

  • Happy Anniversary. A lovely post!

  • A long term marriage is a joy to behold, in all its messy glory. The idea that a couple gave their commitment a priority through blips big and small should always be honored and congratulated! All the best to you both and many more.

  • Amazing how quickly time passes. We just celebrated 28 years together (married 26), and it seems like yesterday that we met. Love the idea of growing old with my hubby too 🙂

  • Happy Anniversary. Scott Peck wrote that the second twenty years is when you can settle into your marriage, because you are done trying to change each other, and now ready to accept and love each other. I think that’s true!

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Yes, that makes a lot of sense! What used to drive me nuts is now endearing…most of the time 🙂

  • Aww, what a touching post, Sharon. I completely agree with you and love that you wrote that — that being happily married is different from being happy all the time. I’ve always said that I’m suspicious of people who say they’re happy all the time. I believe more in having pockets of happiness. And it’s those pockets and a sense that our partners are truly committed to us, that truly help is in the long haul. Happy Anniversary and thank you for the marriage advice / insights! I’ve only been married for 10 so we have a long way to go.

  • A very happy anniversary to you both! Wonderful post! As we approach our 31st on Sunday, it is so nice and refreshing to read about other long marriages. Here’s to many, many more anniversaries!

  • This is so true, I’m just right behind you which you already know but that’s it in a nutshell. Putting your marriage before everything else it’s a choice you have to make. Those of us that have, know that life couldn’t be sweeter. I hope you have a terrific anniversary!

  • Matti Jackson Segaloff

    Happy Anniversary Sharon! I agree with what you’re saying and you’re so lucky to have some one who “has got your back”, through good and bad and then worse . Wishing you both 25 (at least) more years of togetherness. X

  • Happy Anniversary! What a beautiful tribute to marriage. You are so right – if you approach each day knowing that you are in it NO MATTER WHAT, and that you will always be there for each other, you can do anything! Our 25th is next year, and we’ve been dating since we were 15, so it will be 33 years that we’ve been together. Sometimes it feels like it has gone by in a flash, and some days….:)

  • Sharon, you have written countless pieces that I have enjoyed and admired. This one may be at the top of my list. Perhaps it is because we have recently celebrated our 25th anniversary and I see in your writing so much truth and honesty about a marriage. I love this-

    “But the most difficult days, the ones that exhausted us and kept us up at night, that scared us or made us desperately sad – those are the days that made 25 years possible.”

    Congratulations to you both!

  • Leslie

    Oh my goodness! I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. This is the first entry I’ve read, and it honestly sounds like my life! I’m at 22 years of marriage this year…not an empty nester quite yet (1 away at college, 1 home and in college and 1 in high school ) but I’m so close! This entry gives me encouragement! Marriage can be hard! And soon it will be just my husband and I (do we really even know each other! haha). Our marriage has always been about the kids. Thank you! Can’t wait to read more!

  • Oh Sharon, I love this so much! I can relate to almost all of it. We celebrated our 30th a few months ago. Amazing how time flies. Can I just say that you two are so lovely together? The pictures are fantastic. Happy Anniversary, my friend! XO

  • Sharon,
    I love this! So, so true. We just celebrated 27… in the blink of an eye! I enjoy and appreciate your blog! Here’s to another 25. 😉

  • Happy Anniversary! I wish you two many many more! We just celebrated our 39th! It’s hard to imagine all that time as passed! It’s always wonderful to see true love win!

  • I love this so much. I love being happily married for many years.

  • I have a very wise grandmother who told me that before I got married to someone, I should date them for at least two years (because he couldn’t be “at his best” for two years without letting the mask slip) and through two losses. She told me that whether it was a death in the family, the loss of a job or a medical problem, a couple would know if they could survive if we each went through a loss with the other. I remember her saying, “Sorrow magnifies the good in some people and the bad in others. Be sure you know which you’re getting.”

  • Debbie Stauffer

    Nice Sharon! Happy Anniversary. A lot of similarities for my husband and I as well. We will celebrate 29 years in November. Deaths and births in rapid succession and lots of other challenges but the one day I realized he was my partner for life was when I woke up after my angiogram to see him sitting there by my side. He’s never left it.

Comments are closed.